It’s Not Grim up North: 6 Reasons to Love Manchester

“Manchester is in the south of the north of England. Its spirit has a contrariness in it – a south and north bound up together – at once untamed and unmetropolitan; at the same time, connected and worldly.”

Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

I’ve made no secret of my love for Manchester. Although it isn’t my home town – I grew up in a tiny market town in Warwickshire that no-one has ever heard of – it’s the city where I feel most at home. I’ve lived in a few places, but Manchester will always be special; it’s the place where I grew from idiotic teenager to idiotic twenty-something.

Manchester is unique.

Yeah, the weather can sometimes be a bit tempestuous (I have lost count of how many umbrellas have been massacred during monsoon season) but that’s a small price to pay for living in such a brilliant, vibrant city. After all, this is the place where the industrial revolution began, the first programmable computer was invented, and the Hacienda (and legendary musicians) was spawned. It gave us Oasis, Elbow, The Smiths and – most importantly – The Stone Roses.

It’s a place where people actually acknowledge each other, somewhere with all the big city attractions – excellent theatres, thriving industry, amazing bars and restaurants – with a far friendlier vibe than our capital.

As I pack all my belongings in preparation for my return north, it got me thinking about all the things I love about the rainy city.

So I’ve decided to start a new series of posts on Emma Is Writing about all the reasons why – although I will cheat and travel the world – Manchester will always have my heart.

First up, here are six reasons why I reckon you’d love Manchester too!

1. Music Legends

If you put your ear to the ground, you can probably hear music surging through Manchester’s cobbled veins. The city is renowned for its rich musical history, and it’s even richer musical present. Offering up artists such as New Order, The Bee Gees, Elbow, Oasis, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Take That (to me, possibly the greatest artist of all time) there really is something for everyone.

And if live music is your bag, then look no further. The city is studded with excellent venues such as The Albert Hall, Night & Day, The Deaf Institute, The Ritz, The Academy, The Apollo, hosting great local, national, and international acts.

2. Theatre, Galleries, Culture…Oh My!

London may have the famous West End and some seriously legendry theatres and galleries, but Manchester has talent and culture to boot. The city holds a vibrant history, resulting in a huge treasure trove of museums, galleries and exceptional architecture

Here’s a list of must-sees:


Contact Theatre

Royal Exchange Theatre


Lowry Theatre Manchester

Palace Theatre


Manchester Art Gallery

Whitworth Art Gallery


The architecture of Manchester demonstrates a rich variety of architectural styles. As I mentioned before, the city is a product of the Industrial Revolution and is known as the first modern, industrial city. Manchester is famous for its warehouses, railway viaducts, cotton mills and canals. Juxtaposed against modern high rise buildings and green spaces, Manchester makes for excellent scenery.

Check out: Manchester Town Hall, The Midland Hotel, Shambles Square, St Ann’s Church, Chetham’s School and Library, the Bridgewater Canal (Castlefield), Manchester Central Railway Station (now Manchester Central Convention Centre), the John Ryland’s Library and the façade of Victoria Station.

3. Food Glorious Food (And Alcohol, of course)

I am such a fan of going out for dinner; it’s quite possibly one of my favourite ways to while away an evening, especially if it involves a vat of wine. Manchester is home to a whole host of amazing eateries to suit every budget, from high end bistros, to affordable pizzerias, quirky tea rooms and quaint Italians tucked away in suburbs.

One of the best culinary finds from my time spent living in Manchester has to be the delicious, and very reasonably priced, Sindoor – a small southern Indian restaurant located in Burnage, approx. 15 minutes outside of the city centre.

Similarly, there are a whole heap of amazing places to head out for drinks. From bars serving up excellent cocktails and fancy wines, to unique pubs secreted under the streets of Manchester, to local pubs and establishments serving the best beers. Manchester boasts excellent night life.

Check out my favourites:

Trof and El Capo (The Northern Quarter)

The Gas Lamp (off Deansgate)

Cask (Liverpool Road)

Which brings me on to my next point…

4. The Northern Quarter

The Northern Quarter has fast become the cornerstone for nightlife in recent years. Twenty years ago, it was a small area of Manchester mainly full of wholesalers and jewellers. Now it’s a vibrant area bustling with cafes, bars, shops and restaurants. Full of pre-war buildings, the streets are often used as locations for films (The Avengers and Sherlock Holmes have both been filmed here – I once walked past an extra in full Sherlock Homes clobber who took one look at me and fake passed-out. I am still not sure what to make of that situation).

The big guns like Affleck’s are still around (but changed over the years – think boutique shops rather than the flea market of old) but new and impressive shops, bars, and restaurants are popping up all the time. There are many fab shops in the Northern Quarter but if vinyl is your particular pleasure, you should spend some time getting lost amongst the shelves in the famous Piccadilly Records.

A favourite venue of mine is Soup Kitchen which combines great food, gigs and club nights. And I’m also partial to cocktail bar Apotheca which does a mean absinth based cocktail and is the ideal bar for a date.

5. Shiny Happy People

The people of Manchester are known for the friendliness. It’s a place where it’s not seen as a huge social faux pas (or a sign or mental illness) if you smile at someone on public transport or talk to people in the line for a club. It’s an open, vivacious, welcoming city and its people are pretty fabulous too.

And a little extra!

Manchester has a thriving and novel (pun totally intended) literary scene. I was lucky enough to spend six years studying at the prestigious Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University where I was taught by – and studied alongside – some truly excellent writers.

From readings (check out bookstores such as Blackwells and Waterstones on Deansgate for both local writers and household names) to live literature nights (Bad Language at The Castle Hotel in the Northern Quarter is a must for lovers of all things literary) and literary festivals (Manchester Literature Festival, Manchester Childrens Book Festival), Manchester has a lot to offer book lovers like me.


Thanks for reading this post and welcome to my new #itsnotgrimupnorth series! Expect photos, tips and tales!

I’d really love to know what you think about the city and my posts.

Remember you can get in touch Twitter @EmmaYatesBadley, Facebook, or drop me an email ( Just look right for details.


This Old Thing

“The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche



I’m currently in the process of tapping out a short story (although, unfortunately I don’t think I am going to meet the deadline) and remembered a passage I’d written yonks ago that I thought would work well as part of the narrative (don’t you just love it when that happens – when suddenly that 500 words or so you randomly wrote someday finally seems to fit somewhere).

I’d saved a load of started-and-then-abandoned short fiction in a file on my computer and was actually shocked to see how many were in there! Apparanetly I just don’t finish writing anything anymore. But I am determined to get this short story finished at least. Then perhaps I can work on the end of that novel. Gulp.

Anyway, as punishment for this secret file of half-starts, here’s something I randomly wrote and then hid.


As children we were afraid of this woman. The other littles and I would walk past her house everyday on the way to school. There was nothing special about number three, not really, and I don’t know why we singled it out, or singled her out for that matter. When I look back now, I burn with shame and my guts do this swirling thing which makes me think of those Spirograph pictures we used to make when we were kids. The ones where you stick a biro in this plastic thing and it would make a pattern as you twirled it across the page.

Her garden was a bit neglected, I suppose, but that was kind of the norm on our estate. Our road in particular was where washing machines and ovens, sofas and bits of old bike and exhaust pipes, came to die. A hospice for unwanted house old items, all rusting limbs, stinking and falling apart. We loved exploring these graveyards – us littles– we’d rummage through all the shit and mouldy items, chase each other with bits of splintered wood, a table leg, a metal bar, anything we could get our greedy paws on. Chasing and running and swearing, circling the estate like a pack of hyenas.

Occasionally we’d find something good amongst the debris and flog it to the scrap man, the one with the big, black dog that barked and barked as it rode on the back of the scrap man’s truck, wind pinning its ears and lips back so we could see big snarling teeth. You didn’t mess with the scrap man.

scrap man

We knew when he was coming; he’d hang out the truck window shouting, screeching for metal. We didn’t know then that the bastard made a fortune from us scavengers; he’d just slip us 50p here, or 20p there. We were ripped off – us littles – but it was enough for an ice cream or a bag of sweets from the newsagent so we didn’t really care.

One afternoon, after school, when our mothers where sitting in the kitchen, gossiping over weak tea and cheap, sugary biscuits, the littles and I decided it was time for a new adventure. We were sick of the cluttered lawns of our friends and neighbours, sick of the sharp edges and dust, rust and beetles that popped out of holes and ran along our fingers.

We wanted something different, something new.

We’d see the woman every day, in her unremarkable house, on her ordinary porch, and shudder as we walked by. Us littles would huddle into a group with our arms linked, a blur of grey school blazers and rucksacks. We weren’t wimps – us littles – not at all. We were tough and wiley, left outside too long by parents who weren’t sure how to cope, how to talk to us, but this woman – with her long grey hair and pale, taut skin, this woman – always barefoot even when it was raining, even when it was snowing. This woman – she terrified us, sucked all the loud and the cheek and the joy out of us. She was a raincloud on a summer afternoon, that feeling like your arse is about to drop out of your body and take all of you with it, spilling onto the tarmac.

8 Things Solo Travel Has Taught Me

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no-one alive who is Youer than You!”

– Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You!

It’s been almost four weeks since I arrived back in the UK and, although I mentioned in a previous blog post that I was having a hard time adjusting (this morning my Dad found me just stood staring at a big map of the world I have hanging on my wall), I am starting to finally make plans for what’s next…but more about that later.

I’ve just finished reading this great blog post by Matador Network (if you don’t peruse their site and you’re the travelling type, do so immediately as I think their tips and articles are fab) entitled 9 Things That Only Happen When You Travel Solo, and it got me thinking about what happened to me as a solo traveller and how, if at all, the experience changed me.

So here we go.

You Learn to Pack Light

And I don’t just mean your suitcase or backpack whilst travelling! My study is full of the things other people usually throw away – birthday cards, pictures, trinkets from friends weddings – and while I don’t want to chuck these things away (because I’m a bit sentimental like that) I should box them up and stash them in the loft at least.

When I got home I was completely overwhelmed by how much stuff I actually have. I am such a hoarder, and please don’t get me started on my wardrobe! I own so many clothes that I never wear it makes me a little ashamed. I am in the process of packing up my life for yet another move and already have a big pile ready to send to the charity shop.

You Learn to Like You

As a solo traveller you spend an awful lot of time just Me, Myself and I and, while sometimes this can be really difficult and lonely, it’s worthwhile doing simply for the opportunity to get to know yourself. I’m not suggesting you talk to yourself in the mirror or anything weird like that (although we all do that, don’t fib) rather spending long spells on your own affords you the time to think about your own likes, dislikes, wants and needs, and you’ll find you become far less critical about who you are on your return.

You Put Down the Make-Up Brush

I always thought I didn’t wear that much make-up compared to other people, but then I travelled to hot countries where slapping on that full face meant 1) getting up early to trowel it on and 2) contend with your face dripping off your face in the searing heat. About three weeks in, you start getting a bit of a tan; washing your hair constantly becomes tedious and you no longer care. When I look back to pictures of me from my trip, I don’t see the spotty face, burnt nose or mental, matted hair, I see a happy girl having the time of her life.

You Become a Badass

I’m not talking ninja-black-belt-in-karate style, although that would be pretty cool, but rather in the way you think about things. I don’t think there is anything scarier than packing up your life in a small bag, waving goodbye to your loved ones and hurtling off into the world with only your thoughts for company. I’ve been stranded in airports with no cash (my passport held to ransom), slept under the stars in the outback of Australia with dingos howling all around me. I’ve had money and belongings stolen from me. I’ve hiked up countless mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, scuba-dived even though I’m a little frightened of open water. I’ve walked cities alone. Slept in questionable places. Taken a flight in a crazy thunderstorm.

Solo travel is a crazy whirlwind and there’s usually no time to give into your fears. Its testing to say the least, and it really does help you face situations and realise you will come out the other side relatively unscathed.

You Meet That Person

Or people. Now this isn’t always a romance, not in the conventional way, anyway. It could be that person met in a dorm room and decided that you must get drunk immediately and spend the night dancing on tables, the best friend made at a beach, a guy or girl you just couldn’t stop kissing for a while, someone you’ve fallen for, or just a travel buddy who makes you laugh.

They’re all out there. I’ve met most of them.

You Learn to Appreciate the Little Things in Life

Travelling solo can be really challenging when faced with difficult situations and it can be really difficult to remain positive when faced with a potentially scary situation, but it can also be one of the most freeing moments of your life. You learn to appreciate everything and begin to notice the small things that you might overlook in your busy everyday life back home. I can remember watching countless sunsets in Australia or climbing to the top of some mountain somewhere in New Zealand and just thinking, “this is breathtaking. I am so lucky.”

You Learn How to Chill Out

I’ve always been a bit of a worrier, another thing I didn’t realise until I went travelling alone. I’d always thought I was pretty chilled out, which I suppose I was in some aspects of my life, but often I would lose my shit at tiny, inconsequential things which wouldn’t even register on my freak-out-radar anymore. Taking time out to remember what’s important, what’s worth worrying about – for me that’s friends, family, health – makes all the other white noise of the world just fade out.

You’ll Question Everything About Your Life

OK, so I stole this one from the Matador article but when I read this point, bells were going off in my head because it’s so true. Solo travelling makes you question everything. From why the hell you thought it was a great idea to go it alone for five months in the first place, to career and relationship choices (or lack of both in my case). The author of the article states that people wondered if she was running away from something and she found herself asking whether she was. I encountered the same questions: Why did you decide to do this now? Why alone? Why here? What’s so bad about home?

It may sound terrifying to question every aspect of your life in this way, but its actually pretty liberating. That thirteen hour overnight bus between Melbourne and Sydney, or twelve hour flight from Bali to Hong Kong affords you the time and space to pull apart these issues and, if you are unhappy like I realise I had been before I travelled, it’s the ideal time to start thinking about what you really want and how to apply this new found knowledge to your real life.

Now I’m back in England I realise that as much as I adore travelling (and I do) I don’t think I could live permanently away from my family and friends and I know that my next move needs to have some air of stability to it. So I am heading back to my beloved Manchester in three weeks. But I have no intention of stopping travelling. In fact, I want to go somewhere new as often as possible, I’d even like a career that might allow me the chance to travel occasionally, and if a person came along who’d like to make travel their passion too, well that would just be wonderful.

Have you ever travelled solo? What did you learn about yourself from the experience? How does it differ from travelling as a couple or a group of friends? Has travel changed you in anyway?